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Checkbiotech: Virginia Bioinformatics Institute researcher receives USDA functional genomics grant
Posted by: DR. RAUPP ; madora (IP Logged)
Date: July 14, 2005 09:17PM ; ;

Brett Tyler, research professor at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute
(VBI) and Virginia Tech professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed
science, has been awarded a three-year, $980,000 grant from the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) to identify the ways in which the plant
pathogen Phytopthora sojae overcomes the defenses of its host soybean, July

Phytophthora species and related pathogens cause tens of billions of
dollars of damage every year to a wide range of both agriculturally and
ornamentally important plants and also cause severe damage to forests and
threaten entire natural ecosystems. More specifically, P. sojae causes
serious damage to soybean crops and cost growers $1 billion worldwide in
2003. In order to develop improved methods for controlling Phytophthora
infection, it is important to understand how these pathogens break down
plants' defenses.

Many of the most important interactions between the pathogen and its host
occur early in the infection process. Tyler and co-project director Kurt
Lamour, assistant professor of entomology and plant pathology at the
University of Tennessee, Knoxville, will focus on identifying and
characterizing genes active at the earliest times during P. sojae infection,
starting with spore germination and penetration of the host, and continuing
through the first 16 hours of infection. This time period is the most
crucial for a successful infection because this is when the pathogen seeks
to establish itself within the host tissue. Collaborators Michael Scanlon at
the University of Georgia, and Hayes McDonald at Oak Ridge National
Laboratory also will assist in the study.

"A complex web of interactions between pathogen and plant genes occurs
during the first hours of infection as the two organisms battle for
supremacy," Tyler said. "By taking a whole genome approach that measures the
activities of all the pathogen and plant genes simultaneously we can begin
to tease apart this web."

Last year, Tyler and his colleagues successfully mapped the genomes of P.
sojae and its sister pathogen, Phytophtora ramorum. P. ramorum, more
commonly known as sudden oak death, is a serious fungus-like pathogen that
has attacked and killed tens of thousands of oak trees in California and
Oregon. These genome sequences are serving as important tools in combating
these devastating diseases.

Virginia Bioinformatics Institute (VBI) at Virginia Tech has a research
platform centered on understanding the "disease triangle" of
host-pathogen-environment interactions. With almost $49 million in
extramural research funding awarded to date, VBI researchers are working on
many human, crop, and animal diseases.


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